Incentivizing Law Enforcement

There are many ways to encourage and discourage desired behavior. The two most common methods are rewards and punishments. You reward behavior you want and punish behavior you don’t want. These two methods are used in every walk of life, even law enforcement. Many municipalities have been encouraging their law enforcers to pursue fines. Unfortunately, an individual can only do so much so when law enforcers are encouraged to pursue fines, they necessarily must put less time into other activities such as solving crimes:

Alongside the Black Lives Matter movement in the past several years, civil rights advocates have begun pointing out that the way municipalities collect fees and fines often disproportionately affects low-income communities of color, especially when those communities aren’t well represented in local governments. In 2015, as a follow-up to investigations of police bias in Ferguson, Mo., the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department released the Ferguson report, which painstakingly documents how the police department in that city relied overwhelmingly on fees and fines collected from people in ways that “both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias.”

But here’s another result of fee and fine enforcement that has never before been measured: Police departments that collect more in fees and fines are less effective at solving crimes.

In addition to fines and permits fees, fines are a major source of revenue for cities. Moreover, city governments make nothing when burglaries, rapes, and murders are solved. When these facts are considered, it’s not surprise that municipalities encourage their law enforcers to pursue fines instead of solving actual crimes.

One of the most common criticisms of privatizing police is that doing so would result in the police pursuing the interests of those who hired them. What most critics of police privatization don’t recognize is that socialized police also pursue the interests of those who hire them, which is why today’s law enforcers spend most of their time enforcing laws that profit city governments. If police were privatized, you could actually hire them to solve burglaries, rapes, and murders. So long as police remain socialized, the chances of that happening are effectively zero.

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